If you were asked what your ultimate method of relaxation was, what would your answer be?
Mine would definitely be playing video games. With them, I manage to get a good story while keeping my hands busy, which means no risk of my anxiety coming through in the form of biting my nails or picking at my cuticles. Or, if I’m craving something simple and fun to pass the time with, there are a ton of games that aren’t story heavy to choose from. Fun, satisfying, and versatile; what more could I ask for?
But do video games offer more benefits than just a good time?
They can be educational. As someone who’s been playing video games since before the PlayStation 2 came out in 2000, I can say from personal experience that they can be educational, even if that isn’t the game’s purpose. For example, I learned how to read Roman numerals because of the video game Kingdom Hearts II, which uses the numbers I-XIII quite frequently in it. I also learned about Japanese culture thanks to the game Persona 4, which is originally Japanese and still rich with its culture even in the English localization. It wasn’t really the games’ intention to teach me those things, but I learned about them because they were framed in a way that made me interested to know more.
Other than anecdotes, though, video games can be used for education according to some studies. Studying is generally disliked by students because it’s seen as boring, and educational video games help solve that problem by being more whimsical and interactive. Big Brain Academy for Nintendo systems, for example, is a puzzle-based video game literally designed to get the player’s brain working by testing and improving their knowledge on various topics.
They can promote social interaction. Multiplayer in video games has only been increasing as the years go by, and with the pandemic currently threatening us, it can be a good alternative to risking socializing outside. With multiplayer, since we’re already playing the same game with someone, it means we already have an interest in common! There are many great people who play the same game, so why not chat with them? However, minors should be extremely careful about whom they chat with online, as there are always predators looking to take advantage of someone online.
They can relieve tension. After a rough day or a particularly heated argument, I find that focusing my aggression towards virtual enemies can be really satisfying. They’re not real and their purpose is to be defeated anyway, so it means I can go all out without risking hurting myself or others in real life. This is more up to taste, but I do find hitting things with fantasy weapons more appealing than smacking around my fluffy pillows.
The main concern I see when video games are brought up is the potential tendency towards violence in players, especially young ones, who play violent video games like Call of Duty or Resident Evil. The good news is that, according to research done on this very topic, there are no long-term effects on people, including children, who play violent video games.
Still, I do understand the concern of exposing children to violent content in general. There’s an easy way to avoid that happening, though: checking the audience rating on the cover. All games have them, and ones rated M for Mature can be avoided while still picking up the ones rated E for Everyone. That’s why there’s no need to prohibit children from playing any video games at all until they’re older; there are ones perfectly suited for their age!
The other two concerns both arise from the social aspect of gaming: possible cyberbullying and predatory behavior. This can be avoided within the games themselves by opting to play single-player only, but there is still the risk of being the target of nasty people if one participates in a game’s community via social media or messengers such as Discord. The only way to minimize these risks is to make sure the player (usually minors in this case) is aware of what not to do when interacting with others, such as not sharing any personal or sensitive information.
Personally, I think the pros outweigh the cons, as video games were there for me many times in my life when I felt like nobody else was. In that sense, I wouldn’t want the comfort of games to be taken away from anyone. As long as one is careful about how they go about interacting with others in video game spaces, video games themselves are an amazing way of spending time!